Real Answers from Real Pilots

Flight Experience: ATP March 2017 - SkyWest Indoc April 2019

Overview:
I am currently a Skywest FO in training for the CRJ side.
Started my flight training March 2017 at Trenton NJ (KTTN) and instructed with ATP at FXE Spring 2018.
After ATP I instructed at another South FL school, instructed on my own, performed ferry flights, contemplated 135 Jets & Piston Twins, considered Banner Towing, flew to Cuba, the Bahamas, Up/Down the East Coast and Miami to LA.
During this time I had a variety of experiences, made a lot of good friends and met many people in different parts of the aviation community.

ATP Review: I started 2 years ago and things change often in this industry and at flight schools. ATP is no exception.

Training:
-When I was a student at KTTN it was an overall good experience. The key to doing well in the program is to minimize training delays under your control (Studying, Chair Flying, Pro-active with Instructor).

  • For planning purposes I would factor in a 1-2months of training delays. My 2nd week, ATP changed my 6month program to a 9month program; after mostly uncontrollable delays it took me 12months.
  • If you want faster, minimize delays like weather, move/train in South East or West.
  • CFI school can be a big delay (Checkride delays). Let ATP know you are willing to take the Checkride at any location and they might ship you out (Saved me 3weeks).
  • Can you work while training? Depends on who you ask, who you are, and what job you have. I had a great boss, and I made my own schedule. I was able to work 16-25hrs per week on average. This will NOT work all the time and is NOT recommended by ATP or myself in most cases.

Climb to 1500:

Instructing:

  • You will NOT fly better aircraft (at 98% of other flight schools and 135ops). ATP maintenance is unmatched. Yes it is annoying when planes are squaked but the vast majority of other flight schools do NOT have a standardized fleet, and the maintenance is questionable. This was my favorite part looking back.
  • Pay: I don’t know if they changed the pay structure again but I can affirm that if it is the same as a year ago, they are about Average (Location Matters on what AVG). But at a lot of other places you have to work more hours for the same amount of pay. Not sure how detailed I can go in this forum so I’ll keep it at that.
  • Location/Hrs: Depends on timing. You want good Instructor/Student ratio about (1/5) and good weather. At some flight schools you can fly more hours per month (Fly South, fly on side(If ABLE)).

Other Options: 95% will take longer to hit ATP Mins.

  • Banner Towing - I did some practice picks for a company. The picks are fun but the rest of the time is boring. At big companies you might do reposition flight. Overall I didn’t because of 1yr Contract and degrading IFR skills.
  • 135/Corporate - Can be awesome or terrible. Depends on Company. IMO, only do if 1. You want to do it or don’t mind 6-12month delay to airlines, 2. Company pays for PIC Type Rating, 3. 1year contract at the most.
  • Ferry/ Contract/ Skydive/ Make Friends - Walk around every FBO and Ramp, go to local aviation events and talk to everyone. You will meet very interesting people and hopefully make great friends. I made life long friends doing this and picked up some fun flying that added extra hours. Just make sure the aircraft is airworthy and safety is priority.

Overall- If you can, go South or out West. Combination of better weather and larger flying community means more hours per month.

Airlines - Make your own pro / con list. Seniority and Upgrade is everything if your young and can move around. That is why I chose SkyWest and the CRJ. These things change every MONTH!!! Do your homework and remember things change very fast. Apply and interview at multiple airlines.

I am very happy with my choice to start at ATP. If you have a 2 or 4 year degree I would highly recommend it as being the fastest reliable way to the airlines. 1. Make sure it is financially feasible ($25-35,000 salary next 2yrs). 2. Make sure you can handle a fast paced learning program (mostly self-study).

Hope sharing some of my experience helps,
Chris

9 Likes

Thanks for sharing Chris. Can you elaborate on year 2 and 3 salaries, please? I thought pay had gone up significantly, but that doesn’t sound like it.

Thanks,
Dan

Chris,

Thanks for sharing and congratulations! I would love to hear more about your training at SkyWest as you progress through it.

Jason

Chris,

Thank you for adding your insight into your training program. Good luck at SkyWest!

Chris

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Chris,

Congrats on the new job! I have many friends at SkyWest. Should only take about 2 years to upgrade if you’re willing to take the ORD base on the CRJ.

Tory

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ORD is not quite that junior. DTW and ATL will be the most junior upgrade for the CRJ at about 1.5 years with LGA being the most junior for the ERJ at 2.5 currently. Enjoy SkyWest, Chris! I wouldn’t have wanted to be at any other regional before I moved on. You’ll love it

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So once you receive all your Certs you will be climbing to 1500 for the next year or 2. I don’t know if ATP changed their pay structure in the past year.

  • When I was there in May 2018 it was about $1100 ground guarantee + hourly rate ramped up. At FXE I picked a slow time and didn’t get a lot of students, made about $2000/m at ATP + $500/m flying on the side. About $2500 for not too much work.
  • Once I had another Flight School and multiple side gigs, flew more hours but no ground guarantee. Avg 110hrs/month making about $3100 after taxes (Was an employee at flight school). Fun but exhausting year.
  • Basically if you fly Avg of 70hrs/m at ATP vs other school with flat rate of $25-30/hr, you will make the same money but at other flight school have to do more sims, ground and flying to make up for ground guarantee.
  • Unless you’re salary, every flight school you will sit around not getting paid multiple times per week. If the weather is good, this is when I would suggest exploring the airport to make contacts for fun / other flying on the side.
  • ATP also has deals where airlines, you contract with Airline early and get a pay bonus. This is a great edge they have. That pre-tax money going right towards the loan is great. Make sure to balance it with picking the right airline though.

You can have a ton of opportunities by just walking around the airport and talking to people on the ramp, at FBOs and at air shows.

  • If you do take a side gig, know your worth / the areas avg pay. South FL was about $35-65/hr depending on what the airplane was and what the job was.
  • Some of these gigs are AWESOME! My buddy flew Cirrus aircraft and made $40/hr handshake to handshake. So when he flew owners to meeting all day he got paid 7hrs to fly 3hrs and the other 4hrs to sit around FBO or take crew car and explore the area (or hang in the Bahamas).
  • I flew a Kodiak all over FL and the Bahamas, A Baron to Cuba, a Waco to NJ, a Mooney to the Keys, a Citabria to LA, and a King Air 350 to Providence RI.

Hope that gives an idea of options and expected pay.

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Thanks Jordan,

A lot of things ramping up at Skywest right now.

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Yeah I only left a few months ago. I did interviewing/recruiting, ERJ deliveries from Brazil, and a lot of the test flying for DMA stuff. If you want to get involved there are a lot of opportunities and I highly suggest it! You’ll meet some great people there. Let me know if you ever have any questions.

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I guess I should have just said “junior base.” Jordan,
Any idea what upgrade times were like at the west coast bases?

Tory

35%20PM

All of this info is straight off their website, and it’s usually updated monthly. On the CRJ, most junior base is DTW at under 2 years - with ORD, MSP, and ATL close behind. Depends what you look at as “west coast.” COS is only just over 2 years and looks like LAX is about 2.5 years. SFO under 3 as well. ERJ is obviously a lot more senior with LGA being the shortest at just under 3.

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That’s very helpful that they post this info. Those ERJ upgrade times though…:grimacing:

Yeah just depends how picky you are on a base. I waited for the ERJ given my test stuff. If you WANT the ERJ then you’ll have to do LGA/ORD to get it relatively quick. If you’re just in it for the hours and the movement and freedom of base, go CRJ :woman_shrugging:t3:

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Chris, thank you for your input of your experience!! Good luck at SkyWest and the rest of your career!!

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Some questions to help me develop my master plan… For someone living in San Diego county, SkyWest appears to be the only airline with a SAN base. If my goal is to eventually work at a major but I recognize that I probably need to work at a Regional for at least 5-7 years:

  1. Am I putting my goal in jeopardy by targeting getting hired as a FO at Skywest on the ERJ and trying to make SAN my base (perhaps having to commute to a different base at first before I can transfer my base to SAN)
  2. If I’m a FO with a SAN base on the ERJ does that slow me down from becoming a Captain at a different base, e.g. LAX? In other words, are Captain upgrades given sooner to FOs who are already at the base where the Captain position becomes available?
  3. If I took a Captain upgrade at a different base, can I then apply to move my base back to SAN as a Captain and wait that out?
  4. Is getting a Captain upgrade at a Regional something that increases my chances of being hired by a major, or are they just as happy to hire Regional First Officers?

My goal is to find a Regional job that I could be happy doing for a long time knowing that I may never make it to a major (I’m 46), but keeping my eye on the prize and doing everything I can to get hired by a major.

Thanks much for any guidance!

Andy,

  1. You are not putting your goal in jeopardy by being based in San Diego, as long as you do not let that get in the way of upgrading to Captain at the first possible opportunity. If you remain a FO in SAN when you could be a captain at another base, you will be negatively impacting your career.

  2. No. You can bid an open Captain position at any base, regardless of where you are currently based.

  3. Yes, but it might be awhile. It all depends on how senior of a base San Diego is.

  4. Absolutely. The majors want to see Captain time from the regionals and plenty of it. You will most likely need thousands of hours of Captain time before a major will take a serious look at your application.

I understand that you want to be based in San Diego, but it is a small base and I am betting it is rather senior. I think your plan is fine, but don’t become so fixated on being based there that you let it impact your career.

Chris

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Thanks so much, this is crystal clear. It seems I should target becoming a regional captain ASAP, which means a base that isn’t SAN

Andy,

  1. Maybe? Depends how long you’d be on reserve as an FO in SAN. It could delay your upgrade date, which will delay your PIC time accumulation, which could delay your job offer from a major.

  2. No. All requests (upgrade, transition, base, vacation, schedule, etc.) are seniority-based. Period.

  3. Yes, but again. It comes back to if you can hold a line as CA in SAN. You would have to ask yourself, what’s more important to you? Being SAN-based? Or holding a line? I have a friend who is BOI-based, ERJ. He could upgrade into the CRJ at any of the junior bases, but he doesn’t want to because he prefers his QOL over the upgrade. Is it what I would do? Probably not. If your goal is to fly for a major, you need to be accumulating TPIC time.

  4. Yes. The majority of new hires have TPIC time.

Tory

Andy,

This all boils down to priorities. As we often say seniority is everything and seniority allows you to get what you want is relation to everyone else. If your goal is to make it to a Major then your priority is flight time and upgrade as those will serve you best in that area. If it’s get to SAN then that may mean less flight time (reserve) or holding off on upgrade.

While I appreciate you want to “develop you Master plan” and that’s never a bad idea, I think you may find that your priorities can and often do change. I was hired at ExpressJet at 41. I was the oldest in my class and just giddy to even be hired at an airline. I had zero intention of leaving and was very fat, dumb and happy there. At the time I was hired Xjt was the top Regional in country (pay, work rules, upgrade times) and I stayed for 9 happy years. Unfortunately things changed (long story but we were bought) and started declining and the writing was on the wall. I had originally thought of Continental but suddenly they were gone and the other Majors just didn’t appeal to me. A friend had gone to Hawaiian (which wasn’t even on my radar) and somehow I ended up here. Originally I wanted to fly widebody around the world (and make the big bucks) but discovered I really didn’t enjoy that so I fly interisland and have an outstanding quality of life.

Moral again is you simply don’t know. The industry changes, your airline can change and you and your priorities can as well. Best advice get trained, get hired and then see where it takes you (both literally and figuratively).

Adam

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